Authors: Michelle Celmer
Again. All through dinner he'd been looking at her, undressing her with his eyes.
“They're breasts, Matt. I'm sure you've seen plenty, so mine shouldn't be all that fascinating.”
He had the decency to look apologetic. “Sorry, I just can't get used to the way you look now.”
“Good, Em. You look
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Let's be clear on something, Conway. Friendship is one thing but I am not, under any circumstances, going to sleep with you again.”
Something hot and dangerous sparked in his eyes and her knees instantly went mushy. “That sounds like a challenge, Emily. And you know how much I love a challenge.”
Welcome to another stellar month of smart, sensual reads. Our bestselling series DYNASTIES: THE DANFORTHS comes to a compelling conclusion with Leanne Banks's
Shocking the Senator
as honest Abe Danforth finally gets his story. Be sure to look for the start of our next family dynasty story when Eileen Wilks launches DYNASTIES: THE ASHTONS next month and brings you all the romance and intrigue you could ever desireâ¦all set in the fabulous Napa Valley.
Award-winning author Jennifer Greene is back this month to conclude THE SCENT OF LAVENDER series with the astounding
Wild in the Moment
. And just as the year brings some things to a close, new excitement blossoms as Alexandra Sellers gives us the next installment of her SONS OF THE DESERT series with
The Ice Maiden's Sheikh
. The always-enjoyable Emilie Rose will wow you with her tale of
âlet's just say the book starts with a sexy tryst on a staircase. We'll let you imagine the rest. Brenda Jackson is also back this month with her unforgettable hero Storm Westmoreland, in
Riding the Storm
. (A title that should make you go hmmm.) And rounding things out is up-and-coming author Michelle Celmer's second book,
The Seduction Request.
I would love to hear what you think about Silhouette Desire, so please feel free to drop me a line c/o Silhouette Books, 233 Broadway, Suite 1001, New York, NY 10279. Let me know what miniseries you are enjoying, your favorite authors and things you would like to see in the future.
Playing by the Baby Rules
The Seduction Request
lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband, their three children, two dogs and two cats. When she's not writing or busy being a mom, you can find her in the garden weeding or curled up with a romance novel. And if you twist her arm real hard you can usually persuade her into a day of power shopping.
Michelle loves to hear from readers. Visit her Web site at www.michellecelmer.com, or write her at P.O. Box 300, Clawson, MI 48017.
We miss you.
ress it up however you like, Conway, but behind all your money and fame, you'll always be trailer trash to the people of this town.”
The line went dead and Matt Conway snapped his cell phone shut, fighting off a sense of unease. He should have expected his homecoming would ruffle a few feathers, that some people from his past would never accept him, yet it still stung. Despite everything he'd accomplished, he felt like a vulnerable kid again.
Shaking off the all-too-familiar sensation, he clipped the phone on his belt and gazed around the partially constructed restaurant interior, dragging a bandana across his sweaty brow. He breathed in the scent of freshly cut pine, waiting to feel the satisfaction, the deep sense of accomplishment he'd more than earned. This was to be restaurant number twenty
in the Touchdown Bar and Grill chain, yet this one erected in his hometown of Chapel, Michigan, held special meaning. It was a symbol.
The kid who'd grown up on the wrong side of the tracks now owned sprawling homes in three different countries. He'd traded in the beat-up vehicle of his youth for a medley of vintage cars any collector would salivate over. He had achieved nearly every financial goal he'd set for himself.
So why, he wondered, would a man who had accomplished everything he'd set out to do feel thisâ¦
Why would he feel deep down that he was still, as his mystery caller had so succinctly put it, trailer trash. He worked longer hours, pushed himself to the absolute limit, yet that gratification, that feeling that he'd finally arrived, eluded him.
He was sure this restaurant would be the key. If he ever finished it, that is. Each day dawned with a new problem to delay construction further. They were set to open on Labor Day, only two months away, and were already three weeks behind schedule. He had too much riding on this. While there was always the possibility a restaurant could fail, the odds were stacked against him this time.
Chapel, Michigan, population ten thousand, wasn't exactly known for its trendy night spots. Touchdown would either bring in patrons from surrounding areas and boost revenue for the city, or it would flop within the first year.
It was a risk he was willing to take. A risk he
Someone called his name, and he turned toward the voice, grinning when he spotted his best friend,
Tyler Douglas, standing in the doorway. Ty cleared the space between them in two long strides and pulled Matt into a bear's embrace, slapping him hard on the back. “Damn it's good to see you. What's it been, almost six months since I visited California?”
“At least that.”
“So how does it feel? Your first return home in what, eleven years?”
“Things have changed a lot.” But not so much that he didn't get the same feelings of inadequacy. The impression that when people looked at him, they would forever see his parents. In California, people saw a man who had everything he could possibly want.
Honestly, he couldn't decide who was more disillusioned.
“I should have known you couldn't sit around and watch without getting your hands dirty.” Ty spun in a slow circle. “They've come a long way since construction started.”
“Thanks for keeping an eye on things for me. And I can't thank you and your parents enough for selling me the property. I know it's been in your family for a long time. Sitting right on Main Street, I couldn't ask for a better location.”
“Are you kidding? You're part of the family.” Ty leaned against a stud that would eventually support the wall separating the dining area from the game room. “As a matter of fact, that's sort of why I'm here. I have an important favor to ask.”
“Anything,” he said without hesitation. “Just name it.”
“I want you to seduce my sister.”
Matt's heart skipped a beatâthen it felt as though
it had stopped beating altogether. If there was a last woman in the world he wanted to seduceâor more to the point,
seduceâit was Ty's sister Emily. “You're kidding. Right?”
Ty's expression was serious. “I know you guys had some kind of falling out before you left for California, but before you say no, hear me out.”
“Falling out” was a mild way of describing what had transpired between himself and Emily. More like, he'd broken her heart and deserted her. But to have led her into thinking there was hope of a relationship would have been dishonest. Despite what he'd felt for her, she deserved more than he was willing to give. And though they'd vowed to remain friends, things had never quite been the same after their one night together.
He'd never been the same.
But it wouldn't hurt at least to hear Ty out before he said hell no. He crossed his arms over his chest and took a seat on an unoccupied sawhorse. “I'm listening.”
“There's a problem with Emily's boyfriend.”
A sensation that felt too much like jealousy soured his stomach. Of course Emily would have a boyfriend. She was a grown woman. Did he really think she'd been in limbo all these years, unable to love anyone but him?
Well, a guy could hopeâ¦
No. He shouldn't hope things like that. He didn't. He wanted Emily to be happy. She deserved to be happy. “What kind of problem?” he asked Ty.
“I know she wants to get married and have a family, but this guy is in no hurry to commit. It's a dead-end relationship. I think deep down she's unhappy
but isn't ready to admit it to herself. I'm sure it'll only take a nudge and she'll realize the mistake she's making. That's where you come in.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Spend time with her. Show her how much happier she could be without him. My parents and I have tried to talk to her about it, but you know how stubborn she can be. She'll stay with the guy on principle alone if it proves us wrong.”
“Ty, I'm not in the market for a wife and family. If that's what she's looking for, she's not going to find it in me, and I won't lie.”
“I'm not asking you to lie. By all means be honest with her.”
“I'm a little fuzzy on the seducing concept. How far do you expect me to take this?”
“As far as you have to.”
Matt could hardly believe what Ty was suggesting. “We are talking about the same Emily, right? Your twin sister. The same sister guys were afraid to ask out in high school for fear you would break their legs?
“You know, you could try just being her friend.”
And suppose a friendship wasn't enough? It hadn't been back then. And though hurting Emily in the past had been unavoidable, he didn't want to hurt her again. He hated the idea that she was unhappy, but he wasn't necessarily the man to remedy that.
Ty's tone turned dark. “There is something else. My parents and I have reason to believe this guy might be into something illegal. He and Emily work together. If he's caught, she could be guilty by association.”
Apprehension raised the hair on the back of his neck. “Illegal how?”
“He owns a nursery. They have shipments coming in constantly from all over the world and he's always going out of the country on business.”
Genuine fear clenched his gut. “Drugs?”
“That was our first thought.”
“So tell her you're suspicious.”
“What, and you think she would actually believe me? This is Emily we're talking about. The queen of I'm right and you're wrong. She would laugh in my face.”
Matt cursed under his breath, and growled, “Let's just beat the guy within an inch of his life and
him break up with her.”
“And you know exactly what Emily would do.”
He did. She was so damned stubborn she would stay with the guy just to spite them.
“Emily doesn't do anything halfway. If she breaks off the relationship, there's no way she'll keep working with him and the problem will be solved.” Ty's tone turned pleading. “If you won't do it for me, do it for my parents.”
When Ty put it that way it was difficult to say no. Growing up, the Douglases had been Matt's only real family. He'd shared countless dinners with them, slept over a thousand times, had even gone with them on family vacations. When his own parents couldn't pull themselves out of a drunken stupor long enough to buy something as basic as new tennis shoes, Ty and Emily's parents always seemed to find a pairâbrand new no lessâlying around the house that just happened to be the right size.
Matt owed them. And God knows he owed Emily.
If Ty was right about her boyfriend, it would be worth the sacrifice. No one was going to mess with Emily and live to tell about it as long as he was around.
“I'll do it,” he told Ty. “Just tell me when and where.”
Emily Douglas pulled the company truck into a parking spot, cut the engine and peered through the windshield at the partially constructed building. Touchdown Bar and Grill was all anyone in town seemed to talk about lately, and honestly, she didn't see what all the fuss was about. And despite her vow to never set foot within its sport-memorabilia-swamped bowels, here she was.
If there had been any way to pass this job off to someone else, she'd have done it. But with Alex out of town, and as manager of the nursery, it was her direct responsibility to give his royal highness, the millionaire, the estimate on landscaping. To add to an already miserable situation, this could be the account to pull Marlette Landscape out of its recent financial distress. She would never forgive herself if she blew this. And Alex, her wayward boss, would never live down the failure of driving the family business into bankruptcy. He meant well, he just had no head for business, and frankly, Emily was growing tired of covering his butt.
In another six months it would be out of her hands. She would have the money to buy the property from her father, then she could get a business loan for the building and her dream of owning her own flower shop would become a reality. But she would never
raise the money without a job. She
this account. The commission would push her that much closer to her goal. She would sacrifice just about anything, including her pride, to see it through.
And wouldn't Mattâ
's sexiest restaurateurâbe surprised to see her darkening his doorway? She'd done a fair job of avoiding him the past eleven years. Not difficult, considering Mr. I Only Date Supermodels Now never came back to Michigan to visit the little people. Apparently the phrase, “I'd still like us to be friends,” fell from his lips as readily as the sweet words he'd whispered to her that night on the beach. He hadn't meant those either.
But this was business. She had to put aside what had happened all those years ago and act like a professional.
Yet, as she reached for the door handle, a flare of nerves heaved her stomach into turmoil.
What would he be like after all these years? As a teenager he'd been cocky and arrogant. At least, that's what he'd wanted people to think. He'd never come right out and admitted it, but she knew he was ashamed of his family and probably as insecure as she'd been. That common thread had bound them and kept them close. But he wasn't poor anymore. She was sure the vulnerable kid who hid behind the bravado, the Matt she'd been friends with, was long gone. Oddly enough, the thought made her sad.
The sun burned white-hot overhead and sweat trickled down her cheek. No point sitting here melting. The sooner she got in there, the sooner she could leave.
She stuck out her chin, shoved open the truck door and stepped down. Sweaty male construction types
in varying degrees of undress gave the site an interesting atmosphere, but she didn't see anyone resembling Matt. Aware that more than a dozen pairs of eyes were suddenly riveted in her direction, she held her head high, prayed she wouldn't stumble over her own feet, and walked through the open door of the restaurant. It took her eyes a minute to adjust in the dim light, then she scanned the interior andâ
No one was there.
Any apprehension she'd been feeling was instantly replaced by a ripple of irritation. Granted, her time wasn't as valuable as his, but he could at least have the courtesy to show up when he made an appointment.
“Emily?” someone said from behind her. “Emily Douglas, is that you?”
She froze in place and her heart started doing a crazy dance in her chest. She knew that voice. Its deep baritone rumbled through her, awakening a long-dead awareness.
You're over him,
she reminded herself.
She forced herself to turn and face him, confused for a second by the man standing there. Missing was the thousand-dollar suit she'd expected. He was dressed similarly to the other workers, in faded carpenter jeans and a sweat-soaked muscle shirt that clung to his tanned, muscular chest. The nails she'd expected to be manicured were uneven and work-worn and she had the feeling his hands were probably calloused as well. Dirt and sweat streaked down his face, a red bandana covered his hair, and dark sunglasses masked his eyes. But that grin was unmistakable. Riding somewhere in between a smirk and a smile, it was burned permanently into her
memory. Matt the millionaire was one of the sweaty construction people.
He slipped the glasses off and staring back at her were eyes the deepest, richest shade of brown. She would never forget those eyesâthe way they'd looked at her that night. The tenderness they'd held. And the regret she'd seen there the next morning.
“Emily Douglas.” He looked her up and down, as if awed by the sight of her. “I barely recognized you.”
And he looked exactly the same. The charming, boyish good looks of his youth had matured right along with the rest of him. In photos and television interviews he always seemed larger than life. An icon. In person, standing here in front of her, he looked like the same old Matt.